Study underway for alternative to Rassawek site for Zion Crossroads water intake

The Louisa Board of Supervisors also got an update on progress to build a waterline from the James River to Zion Crossroads. Louisa and Fluvanna are both members of the James River Water Authority, an entity that exists for the purpose.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to grant a permit for the project and the James River Water Authority was about to submit one that included an intake at the site of Rassawek, an important site in the history of the Monacan Indian Nation. Justin Curtis is with Aqualaw, a firm hired to prepare and submit the permit.

“At our request, that application has been put on hold while we evaluate an alternative a site a couple of miles up the river,” Curtis said. “We’re doing that in coordination with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) as well as the Monacan Indian Nation.”

Curtis said the decision point for the James River Water Authority will be whether to pursue the alternative, or proceed with the Rassawek site. That could come in December or January. 

The Rassawek site was selected in 2013 and two of three required permits had been granted. All of the planning work had been conducted.

“That site had been selected because it was the shortest, it was the least expensive, and it followed a bunch of existing corridors and lines which is utility siting 101,” Curtis said. “Fewest number of landowners affected and it had the right water quality and quantity to meet our needs.”

Curtis said the Monacans had been consulted, but their stance changed as the granting of the permit drew closer. The federal government recognized the tribe in January 2018. (Learn more about Rasswak from Cultural Heritage Partners)

“To get the final permit we needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we have to go through this process where have to mitigate any impacts to historical or cultural resources and that involves consultations with the tribes and certain other agencies and that added a lot of time and expense to the regulatory process,” Curtis said. 

Curtis said Alternative 1C, also known as the Forsyth site, is the preferred site for the Monacans. 

“And we ended up reaching an agreement which was memorialized in writing in January of this year and what we came to an agreement on was that if JRWA went and did a new archaeological study of that alternative site and that study did not find any evidence of buried human remains or historic burial sites, then the Monacans would not oppose the project and they would support the project and help us work through the remainder of the permitting process,” Curtis said. 

The first phase was completed in August and while historic materials were found, none of them were human remains. The second phase started on Monday and will be concluded the week of December 6. The results will be discussed at the next  meeting of the James River Water Authority on December 8. 

(This article originally appeared in the November 4 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Please consider a contribution through Patreon to help sustain this work)

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